VATICAN CITY, Apr 10 (Reuters) – Pope Francis led the “Way of the Cross” on Friday in an empty St. Peter’s Square due to the coronavirus outbreak, and listened as prisoners and their victims recounted their sorrows. .
It was the first time that the procession, commemorating the last hours of Jesus’ life, has not been held in the Colosseum in Rome since Pope Paul VI reintroduced modern tradition in 1964.
Francis watched as 10 people, half of the Italian prison system and half of the Vatican’s health services, carried a cross and lighted torches towards him.
Speakers read meditations as the group stopped 14 times to mark each of the “Stations of the Cross.” The reflections are written by different groups each year and this time they were the work of prisoners from a prison in northern Italy, guards, chaplains and relatives of victims.
Francisco has drawn attention to prisoner problems, including overcrowding, and more recently has expressed concern that the coronavirus is spreading uncontrollably in prisons.
“I became a grandfather in prison. I did not experience my daughter’s pregnancy. One day I will tell my granddaughter the story of the goodness I have found and not the evil I have done,” said a meditation.
Participants prayed before a wooden crucifix that is normally kept in a church in Rome and brought to the Vatican for special service.
According to tradition, a plague that affected Rome in 1522 began to diminish after the crucifix was carried through the streets of the Italian capital for 16 days.
Earlier on Friday, Francis prostrated himself on the floor of St. Peter’s Basilica to pray in the service of the “Passion of the Lord”, one of the unusual moments when the Pontiff does not deliver a homily, leaving it in the hands of the Father. Raniero Cantalamessa, the papal preacher.
Cantalamessa said that the pandemic, which has killed nearly 19,000 people in Italy, should be a stimulus for people to appreciate what really matters in life.
“Let us not allow so much pain, so many deaths and so much heroic commitment on the part of health workers to have been in vain,” he said.
The service is generally attended by cardinals, bishops, and some 10,000 worshipers, but the coronavirus pandemic forced only about two dozen people to be present, including papal aides who read the scriptures and a smaller than usual choir.
The total number of deaths worldwide from the pandemic reached 100,000 on Friday, according to a Reuters count.
(Report by Philip Pullella. Edited in Spanish by Javier Leira)